Don't panic ... you don't need to know everything
I get a lot of private email from readers regarding various aspects of the Java spectrum (and discounting the surge of email from students at the end of the term, looking for someone to complete their final coursework for them) expressing a concern at being left behind.
They are concerned that they aren't keeping up with all the latest developments and find it, at times, overwhelming. Which is a fair comment, looking at the rate we are releasing new revisions, you could be forgiven for panicking.
But the message is, don't. Let things take their natural course and just be aware of current trends. For example, JDK1.5 is about to be thrust into the world, and you'll soon be discovering a whole host of new goodies coming with that. But as a Java developer, don't panic that you don't know every single detail. You are not any less of a Java developer because you don't know the precise in's and out's of say generics.
A long time ago, when Java was still small enough you could keep up-to-date with all the API's realistically, I trotted off to JavaOne. At the time, I wasn't the big-cheese at JDJ but felt that I still had a duty-of-care to know all the latest trends in Java, incase I was asked about something.
I soon discovered that it was becoming impossible to keep abreast of all the developments. I started to panic. But then something happened to me that put the whole thing into perspective and made me sleep soundly at nights again.
I met with James Davidson and walked the show floor together. James at the time, was working deep within Sun (only a few doors down from Mr.Java himself) and was the time the first revisions of the Servlet API was being knocked out. Of all people, I told myself, James will know everything there is about Java; hell he's in the very building its all done. But walking around the show floor, it soon became apparent that he didn't know everything there was about Java. He was like a child in a toy store on Christmas eve, as he discovered new things that Java was being used for. The moment of realization for me was when we clocked the JavaTV API. That was when my (java) life changed.
It was ok to not to know everything and more importantly it was ok to admit to not knowing everything.
My advice to those new in coming to Java, don't try and digest everything. You don't have enough time to do it, and contrary to popular belief, there is more to life than Java. Know what you are suppose to know and know it well.